So I've been taking the L-DOPA bean supplement things for about a week and a half now. It's been enlightening.

Everything that does something also does about a million unexpected other things. The allergy medication that works also makes me stupid. Tylenol on an empty stomach makes the headache go away, but also makes me queasy. Propranolol stopped a panic attack, but also gave me a wet croupy cough that worried the doctor. And so on and so forth. Mostly these things are somewhere between annoying and life-threatening, and I have to sit there and weigh the pros and cons and figure out whether whatever it is fixes more things than it breaks.

The Mucuna pruriens has fixed a lot more things than I expected. I technically knew most of them had gone "wrong", but I was ignoring them because they were non-fatal, and even the internets just shrug when asked if anything can be done about them. I seem to have inadvertently fixed the late night leg-twitchy thing, for instance, and I had no idea that had anything to do with dopamine. (If it gets really bad, I usually fix it with either diphenhydramine/hydroxyzine, or by slamming a highball glass of tonic water.) My fingers and toes aren't constantly freezing anymore. I mean, they are when I'm outside -- winter has made up for the late start with bouts of the kind of temperatures one is warned about when running the Iditarod -- but I keep a lot of microwavable heating pads around, because otherwise my feet take so long to thaw when I get into bed that it keeps me from falling asleep.

I wake up and my brain has some rudimentary function. It doesn't take me several minutes to figure out the horrible noise is my alarm, and locate the phone to turn it off. And that's the tail end of whatever I took the previous day, before I knock back the current day's dose. I still need caffeine before I'm a working human who can plan complex things like tooth-brushing and pants and food, and I still don't really want to get out of the warm bed into the real world where I have to do things, but it's not a twenty-minute argument with myself anymore.

It also seems to be fixing the problem I was actually aiming at, which is my inability to fucking do things. The pros-vs-cons equation is remarkably easy to solve in such cases. I would put up with a considerable number of annoying physical side effects to fix that one. (Mental side effects, not so much; I'll get to that in a minute.) You have no idea how disruptive it is to your life when you have the ability to accomplish a maximum of one useful thing per day. Sometimes that one thing is washing a sinkful of dishes. Don't get me wrong, clean plates are great, but if I pick that it means that nobody's eaten dinner and the laundry is still undone, not to mention all the email and real work and self-imposed writing assignments I leave to languish.

Some of the known side-effects of boosting dopamine are increased anxiety and aggression. I find it is actually lowering both for me. Most of the time when I'm chewing my nails off and fantasizing about rabbit-punching the asshole on the train who won't take his backpack off, it's because I'm exhausted and cranky and I can't handle life and I want to go home, right now. I felt exactly the same way when I quit caffeine entirely for several months on the advice of a doctor, who thought it might help lower my anxiety levels. Nope. Without it, I am both unable to filter either internal impressions or external stimuli effectively (GABA shortage problem), and unable to sift through it fast enough to keep up with the world (executive function/dopamine problem). Gotta patch one or the other, and caffeine is both cheap and legal.

Impulse control is also known to be an issue for some people on (much much higher doses of) levodopa. Not that I've noticed, or that anyone else seems to have done. I find it much easier to say no to myself, actually. One of the particularly nasty things about poverty is that you continually have to deny yourself things you want, and often also things you need, and then just ignore the lack. (It is amazing what you can ignore when you have $1.27 in checking. Really.) Exerting willpower takes both physical and emotional energy, especially when you have to do it all the fucking time, no breaks. It is much easier when things that don't cost money also give you some sense of accomplishment, because then you can divert yourself into something useful instead of just issuing a flat 'no' and then sitting on it, because there's nothing else to do.

Prolonged stress kills off my ability to adapt. I get T-Alerts texted to me -- notifications of how the MBTA is currently broken, basically -- and the worse I feel, the less able I am to use that information to plan around stoppages. If I'm at a bus stop and I get a notification of a delay, I can usually sift through what I know and go, 'hm, well, the nearest subway stop is X distance away, or I can take Y or Z other buses to get closer to where I need to be,' and figure out if that'll get me there any faster. The more worn down I get, the more likely I am to just go, 'no. I picked a bus. They have to send one eventually. I'm just going to fucking sit here and fucking wait for the fucking bus.' It's the only way to keep myself from just giving up, especially if I'm close enough to home to slog back there and go back to bed.

Similar weird obstinacies happen if I'm doing something and notice a secondary thing that needs doing on the way. I'll walk into the kitchen to get something to eat and notice dishes need doing, for instance. I'll think about doing them, while the dishes stare accusingly back at me, but why when there will just be more dishes in a minute? The effort is pointless, because life is pointless, because all is nothingness, and ultimately I just end up sitting there channeling Sartre until my toast is done. And while doing this with dirty dishes is not always the worst thing ever, when I get bad enough I also do it with the idea of getting up and making the toast in the first place, which is why I drop weight like crazy when I'm ground down.

The magic beans appear to be fixing that. So yippee.

There are some downsides. The caffeine and the L-DOPA seem to aid and abet one another, so if I don't eat enough, there's a nasty crash 6-12 hours later, depending on my activity level. It doesn't happen if I have regular meals, so I assume it's my blood sugar tanking. This would be less of a problem if the stuff weren't such an effective appetite suppressant. I'm not unable to eat, I just forget to, and it may work to set an alarm on my phone for it. If I can fucking do things now, the reminder may actually prompt me to find food, rather than prompt me to silence the noise and jam the phone back into my pocket and forget about it, because life is meaningless and I'm tired so why bother.

Either I have just figured out what it's like to be normal, or I have discovered a way to approximate small amounts of cocaine intake without ruining my nose, my serotonin receptors, or my life. Having never tried either before, I don't know which it is.

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